Showing posts with label Chaplin Studios. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chaplin Studios. Show all posts

Friday, January 29, 2016

A day with Charlie at his new studio

Chaplin with Grace Kingsley and Gale on the employment office set of A Dog's Life.

In January 1918, journalist Grace Kingsley, along with Los Angeles Times cartoonist "Gale" (aka Edmund Waller "Ted" Gale) visited Chaplin at his new Hollywood studio. The three had met before. In August 1916, Kingsley interviewed Chaplin at the Lone Star Studio, where his Mutual films were made. That interview, published in the LA Times,1 also featured cartoons by Gale. Chaplin was comfortable with Kingsley and seemed to open up to her in a way he seldom did with reporters. I've accompanied this post with real photos of the visit as well as Gale's drawings which depict Charlie not only as actor, director, and interviewee, but also as an anchor during the "stormy days" of war.

All quotes and cartoons below are from "Charlie Chaplin Begins Work In His New Studio," by Grace Kingsley, Los Angeles Times, January 20th, 1918.2


Gale's observations of Chaplin

After giving his guests a tour of his studio ("I think I could like this place if I didn't work here," he says), Chaplin answered questions about his future film plans. He tells Kingsley that his pictures henceforth will contain more character study and more story...
"And how will the public like that," inquires Charlie anxiously with his puzzled, quizzical little frown.
"What's your first story?" we ask.  "All about a dog!" grins Charlie pointing to a scrap of a mongrel that has crawled to his feet and is licking his hands....That's all we found out about the picture except that it has an employment bureau in it.3

Posing with a mirror. Kingsley is on the right.

Kingsley goes on to describe watching Chaplin rehearse the cast:
Just here in trooped a motley bunch of actors, and Charlie went to work. 
"And now," said Chaplin after an hour's hard rehearsal of the gang, "and now I think a little rehearsal will do us good." 
That's characteristic of the patience and hard work of the comedian, who really leads a double life--that of both actor and director. For Charlie Chaplin, the comedian with the Midas touch of comedy which has the power to turn the meanest "prop" into golden laughter, works like a whirlwind and notes every detail of both makeup and action on the part of his actors, and goes through every smallest part himself to show them. Why, he even dresses them sometimes when they don't get on their make-ups to suit him. 


The only prop in this scene, which was held in an employment agency, was a box filled with sawdust, the purpose of which was obvious. But Charlie didn't let the frayed-out-old-actory person use it for that. "Just flick your cigarette ashes in it--so" he prompted, and then he went through the part in a manner that showed him the artist he is, for the part was only a bit, yet you smiled and you laughed  and cried at the same time he did it. 
"This isn't a rehearse--this is the original hearse," exclaimed one of the actors as he stepped out of the strenuous scene, mopping his brow. 
Charlie's comedy seems entirely spontaneous--that's its wonderful charm. But beneath it all he has the mathematics of merriment, the logarithms of laughter, at his fingers' ends. 

Gale sketches Chaplin's interview with Kingsley

The result:

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1"Beneath The Mask: Witty, Wistful, Serious Is The Real Charlie Chaplin," by Grace Kingsley, Los Angeles Times, August 20th, 1916
2Kingsley's 1918 article is also quoted in my piece from January 19th about Chaplin's new studio. Click here.
3The film is A Dog's Life, released April 14th, 1918.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A brief look at Charlie's new "workshop," which opened this month in 1918

The Chaplin Studios, 1918. (Panorama photo: Silent Traces by John Bengston)

The Chaplin Studios, still located at 1416 N. La Brea in Hollywood, were built on a five acre lemon orchard, a fact that pleased Chaplin. Showing off his brand new studio to reporter Grace Kingsley, he pointed out his "lucky" lemon trees:
See, here's a lemon orchard back of the stage. Think lemons must be my lucky fruit--can't escape 'em--had a lemon orchard back of us at Essanay, and one at the Lone Star--hope they keep the lemons in the orchards, though.1
"A Lemon."

When Chaplin purchased the land for the studio, a 10-room mansion, located at the north end of the property, was part of the deal. But Chaplin did not want to live at his studio. Instead, he told Kingsley, "Brother Sid and Mrs. Sid are going to try it."

Here's a postcard showing Syd outside his residence on the Chaplin Studio property. He lived there for several years.

Chaplin went on:
[There will be] none of the put-out-the-dog-and-let-in-the-cat-and-lock-the-cellar-door stuff for me at my workshop....But see, I've got a beautiful apartment--it's a large corner room, where there are bay windows and odd little dormer windows--this is to be a combination office and reception room, and there's a door I can dodge out of and climb a tree in the lemon orchard if I want to get away from anybody.
(Chaplin's office can be seen at the far right end of the studio in the top panoramic photo)

Charlie escaping from everybody

Kingsley noted that "for exercise and fun," Chaplin liked to "climb all over the skyscraping girders of the new stages."

Chaplin posing atop the scaffolding of the outdoor stage. 

This activity was confirmed in photographs and a letter Syd Chaplin wrote to First National Exhibitor's Circuit, Charlie's distributor, in which he describes seeing his brother lose his balance while doing a stunt high atop the 40-foot steel roof frame of the outdoor stage:

From Moving Picture World (Feb. 2, 1918):
A letter from Sid, the comedian's brother, ...caused no little apprehension on the part of the Circuit's officers. It stated that Charlie, while doing a bit of wire walking on the steel roof frame of the new studio lost his balance and came mighty near canceling his contract by a tumble to the hardwood studio floor, forty feet below. Charlie had gone aloft to get a look over the neighbor's back fences, and while up top was doing a bit of funny business for the benefit of the workmen employed on the floor below. He slipped, but caught himself. Sid says his heart almost quit work. When he found his voice he gave his valuable brother a "calling down" in more senses than one. He adds that he has been sticking closer than a brother ever since and that he finally induced order to keep him out of mischief.

From Moving Picture World, 2/2/1918
Chaplin left his footprints and signature on a cement path at the studio on January 21st, 1918.
Evidently the footprints are still there but the signature and date were taken out and moved to
 Red Skelton's home during the time Skelton owned the studio from 1958-62. 

1Grace Kingsley, "Charlie Chaplin Begins Work In New Studio," Los Angeles Times, January 20th, 1918

Friday, October 31, 2014

The bench photos

Located at the end of a row of offices near the studio screening room, this bench was a popular spot for photos at the Chaplin Studio.

The building straight ahead is a corner of the studio laboratory. I believe the studio entrance gate is around the corner
 from the bench, between the screening room and the lab.

A few photos of Chaplin and others with the bench:

Chaplin posing with an airmail package, 1927

Posing with Kono, 1927
 (taken at the same time as the "airmail" photos above)

With Harry d'Arrast, 1923
With Chuck Reisner (left) and Konrad Bercovici, c.1924
With ballerina Anna Pavlova, 1922
Betty Morrissey (left) and Merna Kennedy, c. 1926

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Chaplin Studios Daily Production Report for the week of Sept. 1 - 6, 1952

This report records Charlie's last days at his Hollywood studio. On Sept. 6th (60 years ago today), Charlie and Oona left California for London for the premiere of Limelight. Once at sea, Charlie learned that his reentry permit had been revoked by the U.S. government. He did not return to America until 1972 when he was awarded an Honorary Oscar.

(Source: Limelight : Project Chaplin N. 1)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Charlie with his longtime valet & secretary Toraichi Kono at the Chaplin Studios, 1927.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012